‘Let another man praise thee and not thine own mouth; a stranger and not thine own lips’, Prov. 27. 2.
There is surely nothing more insufferable than having to listen to someone who is full of himself.The most unpopular person is not necessarily the one with whom we disagree or have little in common. It is the one who does nothing but talk about himself and tell the whole world how great he is. Humility becomes us: pride and vanity demean.
But it must not be a false humility.That is easily detected and just as unacceptable. And it is possible to praise ourselves in a variety of different ways. Name-dropping is one of them, when we casually but deliberately try to raise our standing by mentioning who we know or where we have been. A sense of self-worth can also be shown by a desire to put ourselves in important positions, or to sit at ‘the top table’. It was the Lord who said it is better to take a humble seat at a dinner and to be invited to ‘come up higher’ than to sit at the top table and be sent down.
An old but wise man once commented, ‘Praise is a handsome garment.But though you may wear it, another must put it on you, or else it will never sit well on you … praise is a rich treasure, but it will never make you rich unless someone else speaks it about you’.When speaking of himself, John the Baptist said he was only a voice, and that he was unworthy even to unloose the latchet of Christ’s sandals, a task which was done in those days by the lowliest slave.Yet Christ said of John that he was the greatest of all that had been born of women,Matt. 11. 11.
Self-praise stems from vanity. It is easy for us to look down on others and think how much more superior we are in terms of gift and talent. The proper attitude is for each one of us to esteem others better than ourselves, Phil. 2. 3. It is easy, too, for us to see others’ failures and think we will never be like them.Yet it takes a humble and careful man to say, as another once said, ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I’. And if the poet was right when he said, ‘O that God the gift would gi'e us, to see ourselves as others see us’, how much more important it is for us to see ourselves as God sees us. In His presence we cannot but be humbled as we see what we really are. It is good to remember that a person actually only is what they are in quiet before God, not what they appear to be in public before men. The proud Pharisee was full of himself when he said,‘I thank thee I am not as other men … I fast, I give, I …’ If, however, we pray as the humble publican, ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner’, we shall have praise from God, for ‘he that humbleth himself shall be exalted, but he that exalteth himself shall be made low’, Luke 18. 9-14.